Inapoi la pagina 1990 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link
What Is, “You Shall Not Plant for Yourself an Asherah by the Altar,” in the Work?
Article No. 43, Tav-Shin-Nun, 1989-90
The verse says, “You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah, any tree by the altar of the Lord your God.” Our sages said (Sanhedrin 7), “Rish Lakish said, ‘Anyone who appoints an unworthy judge, it is as though he plants an Asherah in Israel.’ Rav Ashi said, ‘Instead of a wise disciple, it is as though he planted it by the altar.’”
We should also understand what is “judges and officers” in the work, and what is “in all your gates” in the work. It is known that “work” means the work that a person gives in order to achieve Dvekut[adhesion] with the Creator, which is that a person should achieve equivalence of form, called “cleave unto His attributes; as He is merciful, so you are merciful.” That is, a person should come to seeing only to the benefit of the Creator, and not to his own benefit. In this way, we learn the whole Torah on the individual level. That is, we learn both the quality of Israel and the quality of the nations of the world within one body. In other words, a person consists of the seventy nations of the world, from wicked and from righteous. For this reason, litigants, who come to judge in courthouses, we learn that they are also—both the litigants and the courthouse—in the same body.
We should understand why if a person wants to observe Torah and Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds] only for the sake of the Creator, it is considered “work,” and without the aim for the sake of the Creator it is not considered “work and labor.” After all, the fact that a person likes the rest, we learned that the reason is that our root is in a state of complete rest. Hence, when we make any movement, we must receive more pleasure than the rest. Hence, when the reward and punishment are revealed, it is not considered that a person is complaining that he must work, since during the work, he is considering the reward.
It follows that the reward sweetens the work so he does not feel the labor during the work. For this reason, we see that a person does not tell his friend, “Poor me, I got a job at a famous company where the work conditions are great.” Because the reward sweetens the work, the work and the labor are insignificant.
Therefore, when engaging in Torah and Mitzvot in order to receive reward in the work of holiness, although his aim is the reward, because the reward and punishment are not revealed, it is still regarded as exerting in Torah and Mitzvot although it is in order to receive reward, and he is careful not to transgress against the Torah and Mitzvot in order not to be punished. And since the main work is in practice, and “practicing” means that which is revealed, this work is called “the revealed Torah.”
We learn this Torah in the general public. Hence, we learn this not in one body, but in the world in general. In other words, in general, we discern many people in the same world, and there are many people in the world. As their faces are not similar to one another, so their views are not similar to one another. In that state, we learn the Torah between man and man, in two bodies. The same applies to wicked and righteous, and everything is likewise.
But in the work on the level of intentions, which is called “work in the heart,” none of this work is revealed outside. This work is called “the hidden part,” meaning that which is not revealed outside. It is even hidden from the man himself, for precisely through the work of Mitzvot, when the act is revealed outward, the Mitzva [commandment/good deed] is regarded as revealed to a person. That is, a person sees that he is observing the Mitzva in practice, and it cannot be said there that the person is deceiving himself during the performance of the Mitzva.
Conversely, in work on the intention, a person cannot see the truth by himself. He may think that all his intentions are for the sake of the Creator, and he cannot tell if there is a mixture of self-benefit there.
This is as Baal HaSulam said about the words, “Walk humbly with the Lord your God.” Although the literal meaning of “walk humbly” refers to another body, in the work, “walk humbly with the Lord your God” refers to his own body. That is, when a person works with “faith above reason,” this is called “walk humbly.” That is, a person’s reason cannot come to work above reason. Only above reason, a person walks without a gauge by which to see, monitor, and measure his work, whether he is walking on the right path or not.
When a person wants to see if this is true, he examines it with his mind and reason. Since he is going above reason, he has no one to tell him if he is fine or not, since man’s reason, which is his monitor, which should see if this is fine or not, cannot see anything because his work is above his mind, and the mind cannot see this. This is why this work is called “Walk humbly with the Lord your God,” when his body does not see this work.
It therefore follows that when a person works in order to achieve Dvekut [adhesion], which is to come to a state where all his actions are in order to bestow, the will to receive comes and resists it. At that time, a person comes to his litigant and establishes the arguments of the will to receive and the arguments of the desire to bestow. Each one claims that he is right, and then this judge must decide which is right.
Certainly, the will to receive, with reason and intellect, says, “What’s to decide here about ‘who is right’? Let’s go and see what everyone does, meaning how the world behaves, if the whole world works for the desire bestow or for the will to receive. The rule is that we follow the majority, and the majority of the world use only the will to receive, as our sages said, ‘I saw the ascended ones, and they are few.’ Hence, the quality of ‘Israel’ is one among seventy nations, so we must follow the majority.”
Indeed, this is regarded as the “people of Israel being in exile among the nations.” Because they are the majority, they control the quality of Israel. But with argument does not conclude the arguments of the will to receive. He comes and argues like one who is clever, whose arguments are all clear and there is nothing to reply to them. The verse says about this, “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise.” In other words, since the will to receive argues only in its own favor, he is biased. Hence, he can no longer see the truth, since the eyes of his mind see only his self-benefit.
Therefore, when one wants to take upon himself the burden of the kingdom of heaven, the body asks, “In whose favor do you want to work in Torah and Mitzvot?” If he tells him, “For the sake of the Creator,” the dispute promptly begins. That is, the dispute begins primarily during the work on intention, when determining with what intention he wants to observe Torah and Mitzvot. Hence, a person should see that this judge rules justly. And since the will to receive argues for its own benefit, it is impossible to listen to it, since it is biased. For this reason, all his clever arguments are incorrect, since “a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise.”
We should also interpret that when a person begins to determine who is right, the question is, When should one decide? The answer is, “In all your gates.” This is as it is written in The Zohar about the verse, “Her husband is known at the gates.” They said, “Each one according to what he assumes in his heart.” “Gates” means “measures.” That is, in each Behina [discernment/quality] where a person begins to work in holiness, he must determine there with “judges,” to see for whose favor he should work—for himself or for the Creator. That is, in everything a person does, he must first contemplate what he wants from this act, meaning for what purpose is he doing this act.
If he sees that his intention is improper, meaning that he sees that he cannot aim in order to bestow, then he has room for prayer. That is, the bad he finds within him through the calculation that he does with his litigant, he sees that the litigant is sentencing justly, except he cannot uphold the verdict.
Therefore, the question is, Where is the benefit in sentencing justly if he cannot follow what the judge says? It is written about this, “judges and officers.” “Judges” is only the verdict. That is, he sees the truth about what he must do. But when it comes to the execution, which is the “officers,” he sees that he cannot follow through.
At that time, a person says, “Now I can pray to the Creator” because I see that I will never be able to work for the sake of the Creator. Hence, then a person can make a heartfelt prayer that the Creator will help him. Put differently, at that time he has a Kli [vessel] called “lack,” which needs the Creator’s help to give him the desire to bestow, since without His help, he is helpless.
By this we should interpret what is written (Psalms 119), “Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever mine.” We should interpret “my enemies” to mean “the bad within me.” I see that they interrupt me from doing Your will, for the Creator’s will is to bestow, and I am immersed in the desire to receive, which separates me from the Life of Lives. Hence, although I observe Your Mitzvot, they are still only an act, without the wisdom, for “wisdom” means that the light of Hochma [wisdom] is clothed in the Mitzvot, and the “light of Hochma” is called “the light of doing good to His creations,” which is the purpose of creation.
However, it is impossible to receive the light of the purpose of creation, called Hochma, before a person has the light of the correction of creation, called “light of Hassadim [mercies],” which are vessels of bestowal. Since a person sees how his enemies, meaning his will to receive, is in full control and they cannot emerge from its governance, he therefore prays to the Creator to be given the desire to bestow. By this he can later receive the Hochma, as well.
This is the meaning of what he says, “Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies.” That is, the enemies caused him to be rewarded with Hochma. “Your commandments make me wiser” means that the enemies were the reason to be rewarded with delight and pleasure since the help he received from above brought him each time a higher degree than the one he had. Had he not felt that he had bad, he would have settled for what he had and would not have cried out to the Creator to bring him closer and reward him with vessels of bestowal, for only the vessels of bestowal are fit to receive Hochma. It follows that the meaning of “Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies” is that in order for the Mitzvot to have Hochma, only those enemies caused me all this.
This is the meaning of the words, “for it is ever mine.” “It is mine” refers to the enemies, which are always my causes that the Mitzvot will not be without Hochma, but rather dry Mitzvot. Instead, I have been rewarded through the enemies. “It is mine” means that I do not have the choice to follow the ways of the Creator like the rest of the people, since my enemies are worse than those of other people. For this reason, I must stand and ask the Creator to help me, since I am worse than the general public.
From this we can understand the meaning of trials in the work: For whose sake should we know if a person has endured a trial or not? Clearly, the Creator knows everything. Thus, why does the trial come to a person? Many times during an ascent, a person says, “I do not need the Creator’s help anymore,” since I have something on which to base my faith, for I feel the Creator to some degree, so henceforth I will be able to adhere to Kedusha [holiness], and I will be able to observe Torah and Mitzvot once and for all.
What happens from above? Since they want the person to advance and mount the trail that leads to the King’s palace, where everyone works only in order to bestow upon the Creator, and during the ascent, that person built the foundation of his Judaism on the basis of feeling a good taste in the work, which is a basis of Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], for this reason, the person is given some foreign thought. At that time, a person is tried, to see if specifically when the Creator gives him some flavor that the will to receive feels, he will be able to be a servant of the Creator. But above reason just like that, when he has no sensation at all, how can he do something? This is called “sending a person some trial,” so he will see that all his work is based on the will to receive, and then he will feel that he is deceiving himself in the work of the Creator. At that time, he has room to pray that the Creator will give him the strength to be able to work only in order to bestow, and not for his own sake.
Hence, every descent is a trial. If a person can endure the trial, meaning that the thought that comes to a person causes him to see if he is under the governance of Kedusha or not, during the descent, a person can see that at the time of ascent, his whole structure was built on the will to receive for oneself.
During the descent, a person cannot make any calculations. But afterward, when he receives nearing from above once more, which comes to a person by what is written, “I am the Lord, who dwells with them in the midst of their impurity,” meaning that even though a person is still in the authority of self-love, still, an illumination comes to him from above, called “an awakening from above.” At that time, he must awaken the state of descent that he had by himself, and think what was the reason he received the descent, and what he must correct so as not to come into a descent once more. A person must believe that the fact that he suffered a descent is because he was thrown from above. This is why he fell into such lowliness. At that time, he can work on himself, correct corrections so he does not fall again, since he must believe that the descent is a correction for him.
According to the above, we can understand what is written, “You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah.” They interpreted, “Anyone who appoints an unworthy judge, it is as though he plants an Asherah in Israel.” We should understand what is an Asherah in the work. Asherah is as it is written, “ Ashreihem [happy are they] every green tree.” “Happy are they” means that they are happy when they work for their own sake, that he feels that he is happy. This is called “Happy are they,” meaning when a person works for his own sake, meaning that only when he feels good in the work can he work in Torah and Mitzvot.
But when he does not feel good, he says, “It is true that if I worked for the sake of the Creator I could say that I can serve the Creator under any condition, and not necessarily when I feel good. But I am working in the holy work because I was told that in the work of observing Torah and Mitzvotthere is more flavor to feel than in corporeal work.” Hence, if he does not feel a good taste in the work, why should he work in Torah and Mitzvot? After all, his entire basis is only self-love.
Thus, what should one do when he wants to appoint a worthy judge? At that time, a person must look at the intention, meaning the reason why he wants to work on the path of truth. Certainly, he had an awakening from above that we should work for the sake of the Creator. And what is “for the sake of the Creator”? At that time, a person begins to work on the goal that the Creator will enjoy his work, meaning not as in corporeality, where if the owner enjoys the employee’s work, he gives him a raise to his salary. Rather, his reward is that he is delighting the Creator and he does not consider his own benefit. It follows that the judge he is appointing now is in order to see that he follows the right path, which is for the sake of the Creator. This is called “an altar.” That is, the judge lets him see that a person should sacrifice himself on the altar, meaning that we must observe as our sages said, “The Torah exists only in those who put themselves to death over it.”
If he is an unworthy judge, he lets him think that a person should provide for himself things that pertain to his own benefit. This is called “Asherah,” as was said, Ashrei-Hem [happy are they], meaning that the idol-worship of Asherah was that they would always look at what the body could enjoy, and were not interested to know if the Creator would derive from this contentment, but always looked at their own benefit.
However, there is a difference between Asherah and the general public. For those whose work is in practice, who do not think at all about the matter of Lishma [for Her sake], but as Maimonides says, “Women, little ones, and uneducated people are taught only to work out of fear and in order to receive reward. Until they gain knowledge and acquire much wisdom, they are taught that secret little by little.”
It is about those people that we should interpret, “Anyone who appoints an unworthy judge, it is as though he plants an Asherah in Israel.” In other words, the judge, meaning when he wants to do something and asks the judge in his heart, a person should be careful that his judge will not be biased. Otherwise, he will not give him a just verdict. This is called “It is as though he plants an Asherah in Israel,” meaning idol-worship.
If the judge is biased, he might permit any transgression, that it is permitted to do them, “for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise.” This is called, “It is as though he planted an Asherah in Israel.” That is, pertaining to the whole of Israel, who engage only in the practice of the Mitzvot but not in the intention in the Mitzvot, meaning concerning the need to aim for the sake of the Creator, they have no interest in dealing with this and say that this work belongs to a chosen few.
Now we can understand why he says there, “Rav Ashi said, ‘Instead of a wise disciple, it is as though he planted an Asherah by the altar.’” We should understand what Rav Ashi adds to us by saying, “Instead of a wise disciple, it is as though he planted an Asherah by the altar,” whereas if he is not a wise disciple, “it is as though he planted an Asherah in Israel.” We should understand the difference.
We should interpret the difference between those who work in the manner of the general public. He said about them, “as though he planted an Asherah in Israel,” referring to the general public in Israel. But concerning a wise disciple, meaning those who want to be “wise disciples,” as Baal HaSulam interpreted, a “wise disciple” is one who wants to be a disciple of the Creator, who is called “Wise,” who bestows upon the whole world, and that person also wants to be rewarded with being a giver, meaning to work with the aim to come to work in order to bestow. If his judge is worthy, the judge advises him to sacrifice himself on the altar. If he is unworthy, he advises him only for his own benefit, which is “Happy are they.” This is why he says, “Instead of a wise disciple, it is as though he planted an Asherah by the altar.”
Inapoi la pagina 1990 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link